Shergar ch 4

4.

THE sweet smell of cakes baking hit my nostrils as soon as got back to the house. My mum was in the kitchen. Her clothes were dusted with flour.

“Just in time,’’ she said.

We scarpered from the park. Jonathan didn’t see the point in making a quick getaway from the scene of the crime — his crime, if we are sticking to the facts here — but I insisted. He didn’t know Eoin Leonard and his crazy family as well as I did. Busted nuts or not, Eoin could easily get back on his feet and deliver swift and painful revenge. And if he didn’t, then one of his older brothers would.

Jonathan jogged about twenty yards behind me until we reached the top of the hill leading from the park into the town centre and then stopped. He wasn’t exactly ready for the Olympics, if you get my drift.

I had to stop, too, just in case he didn’t know the way back to my house.

“What’s the problem?” he asked.

Here’s the strange thing. I had a hard time explaining what the problem was. Not at first, when I told him what I just told you. But then he asked me if Leonard deserved it and I had to admit that, yes, he had.

“Is Sam a good guy?

Sure.

“Does he deserve to be mocked for his leg by a moron like that?”

Don’t be ridiculous.

“So then what’s the problem.”

We talked all the way home. I tried to tell him, one way or another, he might be trouble but I admit my heart wasn’t in it. Let’s be honest with each other, me and you. I was glad he did what he did. I thought it was awesome. Crazy awesome. The kind of thing that never happened when I was around. It felt good, even if I had a strange feeling in my stomach, like there was a stone rolling around in there. It helped that he seemed so calm. It made me feel calm too.

By the time we got back to the house, I had almost convinced myself that what happened didn’t actually happen at all. That way I had nothing to be worried about.

“Have you boys been running?,’’ my mum said. “Your faces are red.”

She was talking to me because I could feel my face red but Jonathan answered her. “Not at all. We just had nice evening stroll. Isn’t that right, Cillian?”

I’m a world champion terrible liar. “What?”

“You showed me the Grotto,” Jonathan said.

I remembered that nothing was supposed to up. “I did.”

This pleased her no end. That, and the familiarity in Jonathan’s voice. She could tell he was already feeling settled in.

“What did you make of it?” she asked him

“I loved it,’’ he said. ‘It was very spiritual.”

“ I like to go there sometimes. It’s a fine place to escape with your thoughts,’’ she said. “I hope Cillian told the story about the Virgin Mary and the visitation. It’s a strange one, but then these stories always are.”

Jonathan smiled in my direction, just to let me know everything was alright now, that my parents would forever remain in the dark. “If people want to believe it then good for them.”

The timer on the cooker went off. Ding! My mum put on her oven gloves. “Was there any decorations on the bush?”

I butted in before Jonathan spoke. She was my mum, after all.

“Some socks. A few pairs of underpants.”

“Not all of them clean,’’ Jonathan said.

That made my mum laugh a lot. She removed a tray of cakes from the oven, “Can I interest you boys in some jam coconut tarts?”

THE Guards knocked on our door about nine o’clock. Thump, thump with their fists, never mind doorbell. They were too lazy to give that a push.

We were going to watch Match of the Day as well. It was the Saturday night ritual in our house, sometimes — when my dad was in a good mood or if I somehow got a good score in a science test and I was allowed to stay up late. A visitor in the house was a good enough excuse to push my luck. Jonathan could sense what I was up and said was a big fan of the English Premier League too.

“Who’s coming to the door at this time of night?” my mum said. She was knitting and had a big ball of wool in her lap. “Will you get it Cillian, thanks.”

I knew who it was, or at least I thought I did. The stone was back in stomach but this time it was the size of the boulder, making it hard for me to get out my seat.

I stepped into the hall and could see them through the glass of the door. Two black, shadowy figures. The outline of their hats.

It’s not like I could run away or anything so I did the only I could do and opened the door.

“Hello,’’ the first Guard said. “Is your father in, son?”

I recognised him. He came to our school once to give a talk on road safety. Poor fella, nobody listened to a word he said. At the end of his talk when he asked if anybody had any questions, Mr Kavanagh had to threaten us all with detention if no-one put their hand up.

I left them waiting at the door and went to get my dad.

“The Guards? What on earth are they doing here?” he said, getting up from his chair. He looked very grumpy, and this was before he even knew what had happened.

I sat back down in my chair and waited for the world to end. Jonathan caught my eye and smiled, the daft bastard. He didn’t know my dad.

The door out to the hallway was still half-open so we could hear them talking but not what they were saying. Curiosity got the better of my mum. “What on earth is going on out there?”

She got up and headed towards the hallway.

“It’s about what happened at the park,’’ I whispered to Jonathan. “We’re in trouble.”

The next thing I knew they were all in the living room, mum, dad and the two Guards. I’ll admit the Guards terrified me. The uniforms, dark blue with silver buttons, gave them the superpower of turning people’s legs into jelly.

My dad looked like his head was going to explode.

“Turn the television off,’’ he said. His voice was calm, the way it always was before he started shouting.

I didn’t cry when I fell off my bike and broke my wrist and the pain felt like I was being stabbed with a poison-tipped Samurai’s sword. But I’ll admit I was on the verge of some serious waterworks.

The older of the two Guards did the talking and he could see how scared he was. ‘Don’t worry son,” he said. “We just want to talk to you two boys about an incident tonight at Tallerin Park. We believe an alleged incident took place.”

Alleged, my arse. I was right there and saw it with my own eyes. There was nothing alleged about it. I thought if I owned up the Guard he might take pity on both of us and let us off with a warning. But before I could say a word Jonathan spoke.

“I can explain everything.”

THE Guards left half-an-hour later, glad to have the whole misunderstanding cleared up without the inconvenience of having to write a report or ask anyone down to the station for further questioning.

There had been “incident”, sure, but it wasn’t an unprovoked attack. In fact, the alleged victim was in fact the guilty party, having himself verbally and, to a certain limited extent, physically attacked a handicapped person for no better reason than he was an insufferable bully. There had been altercation but punches (and kicks) were thrown from both sides. Blame was shared, make no mistake about.

“Is this true?” my dad asked me.

As I told you, I’m the world’s worst liar — my ears turns bright at the first sign of an untruth — but again Jonathan saved me from myself.

“Cillian didn’t actually see what had happened,’’ he said. “He was over in the woods relieving himself.”

I knew I’d get into trouble later for peeing in public but not even my dad would say it was a hanging offence.

Listening to Jonathan blabber on, it was hard to stop my jaw breaking on the floor. What he said was lies from beginning to end. Every last word. But the way he said, like he was reading straight from a script, reminded me of the lawyers I had seen on American TV shows, talking their guilt-as-sin clients out of the slammer. I don’t mind telling you, I wish sometimes I could lie like that. He was only couple of years older than me but, honestly, it was like he was an proper, full-grown adult.

My mum isn’t a crazy person, if you get my drift. She looked at him a couple of times with narrowed eyes and a tiny little twist in the corner of her mouth, which told me she knew he was lying. She didn’t say anything, though. Same with my dad, except when he asked me once if what Jonathan was saying was right . I nodded and tried my best to keep my ears from telling the truth.

Here’s my guess. The Guards knew Jonathan had done what he had done but they also knew Eoin Leonard was a nasty piece of work who had got what he deserved. As long as no-one died, they were fine with it. Plus, my dad was the deputy headmaster at St Eunan’s and not someone to be pushed around.

“We have had a few issues with this particular boy, as I am sure you have too Mr Sheridan,’’ the older Guard said.

My dad never talked about anything or anybody to do with school in front of me or my brother. “Well, let’s not go into that right now,’’ he said

The older Guard put his hat on and straightened out the creases on the front of his jacket, signalling he was ready to leave. He looked directly at me and Jonathan. “Now I want you two boys to know that if you come across any problems with this Leonard kid you come and see me at the station. I absolutely appreciate it if you didn’t take matters into your our hands.”

“Absolutely,’’ Jonathan said, man to man.

“Yes,’’ I said, though it didn’t come out like that. I’d hardly been able to breath through all of this questioning and when the time came to speak up the best I do was make a high-pitched whisper.

The younger Guard looked concerned. “Are you okay?”

“Yes,’’ I said, and this time it sounded about right. I just wanted them to go.

My dad had had enough, too. “Let me show you gentlemen to the door.”

“No, it’s okay. We can find our way out,’’ the older Guard said, but my dad followed them into the hallway anyway.

My mum, Jonathan and I stood silently, listening my dad and the cops exchanged pleasantries and waiting for the front door to slam shut.

My dad took his time coming back to the living room. He was reminding himself we had a visitor in the house and that he couldn’t lose his temper the way he would have done if it was just Brendan and me. Even so I could still he was still angry, the way the muscles in his jaw twitched. But at least he didn’t shout at us.

“I don’t know exactly what went on at the park tonight and I’m not sure I want to know,’’ he began.

I listened to every word he said. I made sure he knew I was listening by nodding at the appropriate moments and maybe some that weren’t appropriate. I figured the sorrier I was the happier he would be. But Jonathan looked like he could care less. His arms were folded the entire time.

When my dad finally got tired of the sound of his own voice and said it was probably best if we went to bed and got some rest, my mum said she agreed. “Tomorrow is a new day. We can all wake up and start afresh, put this business behind us.”

Jonathan looked like he’d lost all the money out of his pocket. “Bedtime already?” he said. “I really wanted to watch Match of the Day.”

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.